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J. R. R. Tolkien

Tolkien in 1972
Born John Ronald Reuel Tolkien
3 January 1892 (1892-01-03)
Bloemfontein, Orange Free State
Died 2 September 1973 (1973-09-03) (aged 81)
Bournemouth, England
Occupation Author, Academic, Philologist, Poet
Nationality British
Genres Fantasy, high fantasy, translation, criticism
Notable work(s) The Hobbit
The Lord of the Rings
The Silmarillion
The Children of Húrin
Spouse(s) Edith Bratt (1916–1971)

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE (3 January 1892 – 2 September 1973), whose surname is pronounced /ˈtɒlkiːn/[1] (in General American also /ˈtoʊlkiːn/),[2] was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.

Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University from 1925 to 1945 and Merton Professor of English Language and Literature there from 1945 to 1959.[3] He was a close friend of C. S. Lewis—they were both members of the informal literary discussion group known as the Inklings. Tolkien was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II on 28 March 1972.

After his death, Tolkien's son, Christopher, published a series of works based on his father's extensive notes and unpublished manuscripts, including The Silmarillion. These, together with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, form a connected body of tales, poems, fictional histories, invented languages, and literary essays about an imagined world called Arda, and Middle-earth[4] within it. Between 1951 and 1955 Tolkien applied the word legendarium to the larger part of these writings.[5]

While many other authors had published works of fantasy before Tolkien,[6] the great success of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when they were published in paperback in the United States led directly to a popular resurgence of the genre. This has caused Tolkien to be popularly identified as the "father" of modern fantasy literature[7]—or, more precisely, of high fantasy.[8] Tolkien's writings have inspired many other works of fantasy and have had a lasting effect on the entire field. In 2008, The Times ranked him sixth on a list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".[9]


Tolkien family origins

Most of Tolkien's paternal ancestors were craftsmen. The Tolkien family had its roots in the German Kingdom of Saxony, but had been living in England since the 18th century, becoming "quickly intensely English".[10] The surname Tolkien is said to come from the Standard German word tollkühn ("foolhardy", etymologically corresponding to English dull-keen, literally oxymoron), and the surname Rashbold, given to two characters in Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers, is similarly a compound word composed of two words with contrasting meanings.[11] German writers have suggested that in reality the name is more likely to derive from the village Tolkynen in Rastenburg in East Prussia (after WWII Tołkiny, Poland). The name of that place is ultimately of Baltic origin.[12][13]

Tolkien's maternal grandparents, John and Edith Jane Suffield, were Baptists who lived in Birmingham and owned a shop in the city centre. The Suffield family had run various businesses out of the same building, called Lamb House, since the early 1800s. From 1810 Tolkien's great-great-grandfather William Suffield had a book and stationery shop there; from 1826 Tolkien's great-grandfather, also named John Suffield, had a drapery and hosiery business there.[14]


John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on 3 January 1892 in Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State (now Free State Province, part of South Africa) to Arthur Reuel Tolkien (1857–1896), an English bank manager, and his wife Mabel, née Suffield (1870–1904). The couple had left England when Arthur was promoted to head the Bloemfontein office of the British bank for which he worked. Tolkien had one sibling, his younger brother, Hilary Arthur Reuel, who was born on 17 February 1894.[15]

As a child, Tolkien was bitten by a large baboon spider in the garden, an event which some think would have later echoes in his stories, although Tolkien admitted no actual memory of the event and no special hatred of spiders as an adult. In another incident, a family house-boy, who thought Tolkien a beautiful child, took the baby to his kraal to show him off, returning him the next morning.[16]

When he was three, Tolkien went to England with his mother and brother on what was intended to be a lengthy family visit. His father, however, died in South Africa of rheumatic fever before he could join them.[17] This left the family without an income, and so Tolkien's mother took him to live with her parents in Kings Heath,[18] Birmingham. Soon after, in 1896, they moved to Sarehole (now in Hall Green), then a Worcestershire village, later annexed to Birmingham.[19] He enjoyed exploring Sarehole Mill and Moseley Bog and the Clent and Malvern Hills, which would later inspire scenes in his books, along with Worcestershire towns and villages such as Bromsgrove, Alcester, and Alvechurch and places such as his aunt Jane's farm of Bag End, the name of which would be used in his fiction.[20]

Mabel Tolkien herself taught her two sons, and Ronald, as he was known in the family, was a keen pupil.[21] She taught him a great deal of botany and awakened in him the enjoyment of the look and feel of plants. Young Tolkien liked to draw landscapes and trees, but his favourite lessons were those concerning languages, and his mother taught him the rudiments of Latin very early.[22] He could read by the age of four and could write fluently soon afterwards. His mother allowed him to read many books. He disliked Treasure Island and The Pied Piper and thought Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll was amusing but disturbing. He liked stories about "Red Indians" and the fantasy works by George MacDonald.[23] In addition, the "Fairy Books" of Andrew Lang were particularly important to him and their influence is apparent in some of his later writings.[24]

Tolkien attended King Edward's School, Birmingham, and later St. Philip's School, before winning a Foundation Scholarship and returning to King Edward's School. While a pupil at King Edward's School, he was one of a party of cadets from the school's Officers Training Corps who helped "line the route" for the coronation parade of King George V, being posted just outside the gates of Buckingham Palace.[25]

Mabel Tolkien was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1900 despite vehement protests by her Baptist family,[26] who then stopped all financial assistance to her. In 1904, when Tolkien was 12, she died of acute diabetes at Fern Cottage in Rednal, which she was then renting. Mabel Tolkien was then about 34 years of age, about as old as a person with diabetes mellitus type 1 could live with no treatment—insulin would not be discovered until two decades later. For the rest of his own life Tolkien felt that his mother had become a martyr for her faith. This feeling had a profound effect on his own Catholic beliefs.[27]

Prior to her death, Mabel Tolkien had assigned the guardianship of her sons to Fr. Francis Xavier Morgan of the Birmingham Oratory, who was assigned to bring them up as good Catholics. Tolkien grew up in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham. He lived there in the shadow of Perrott's Folly and the Victorian tower of Edgbaston Waterworks, which may have influenced the images of the dark towers within his works.[28][29] Another strong influence was the romantic medievalist paintings of Edward Burne-Jones and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood;[30] the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has a large and world-renowned collection of works and had put it on free public display from around 1908.


Tolkien in 1911

In 1911, while they were at King Edward's School, Birmingham, Tolkien and three friends, Rob Gilson, Geoffrey Smith, and Christopher Wiseman, formed a semi-secret society which they called "the T.C.B.S.", the initials standing for "Tea Club and Barrovian Society", alluding to their fondness for drinking tea in Barrow's Stores near the school and, secretly, in the school library.[31] After leaving school, the members stayed in touch, and in December 1914 they held a "Council" in London, at Wiseman's home. For Tolkien, the result of this meeting was a strong dedication to writing poetry.

In the summer of 1911, Tolkien went on holiday in Switzerland, a trip that he recollects vividly in a 1968 letter,[25] noting that Bilbo's journey across the Misty Mountains ("including the glissade down the slithering stones into the pine woods") is directly based on his adventures as their party of 12 hiked from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen and on to camp in the moraines beyond Mürren. Fifty-seven years later, Tolkien remembered his regret at leaving the view of the eternal snows of Jungfrau and Silberhorn ("the Silvertine (Celebdil) of my dreams"). They went across the Kleine Scheidegg to Grindelwald and on across the Grosse Scheidegg to Meiringen. They continued across the Grimsel Pass, through the upper Valais to Brig and on to the Aletsch glacier and Zermatt.[32]

In October of the same year, Tolkien began studying at Exeter College, Oxford. He initially studied Classics but changed to English Language, graduating in 1915.

Courtship and marriage

At the age of 16, Tolkien met Edith Mary Bratt, who was three years older, when he and his brother Hilary moved into the same boarding house as her. According to Humphrey Carpenter:

Edith and Ronald took to frequenting Birmingham teashops, especially one which had a balcony overlooking the pavement. There they would sit and throw sugarlumps into the hats of passers-by, moving to the next table when the sugar bowl was empty. ... With two people of their personalities and in their position, romance was bound to flourish. Both were orphans in need of affection, and they found that they could give it to each other. During the summer of 1909, they decided that they were in love.[33]

His guardian, Father Francis Morgan, viewing Edith as a distraction from Tolkien's school work and horrified that his young charge was seriously involved with a Protestant girl, prohibited him from meeting, talking to, or even corresponding with her until he was 21. He obeyed this prohibition to the letter,[34] with one notable early exception which made Father Morgan threaten to cut short his University career if he did not stop.[35]

On the evening of his twenty-first birthday, Tolkien wrote to Edith a declaration of his love and asked her to marry him. Edith replied saying that she had already agreed to marry another man, but that she had done so because she had believed Tolkien had forgotten her. The two met up and beneath a railway viaduct renewed their love; Edith returned her engagement ring and announced that she was marrying Tolkien instead.[36] Following their engagement Edith converted to Catholicism at Tolkien's insistence.[37] They were formally engaged in Birmingham, in January 1913, and married in Warwick, England, at Saint Mary Immaculate Catholic Church on 22 March 1916.[38]

World War I

Tolkien in 1916

In 1916 the United Kingdom was engaged in fighting World War I, and Tolkien volunteered for military service and was commissioned in the British Army as a Second Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers.[39] He trained with the 13th (Reserve) Battalion on Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, for eleven months. He was then transferred to the 11th (Service) Battalion with the British Expeditionary Force, arriving in France on 4 June 1916.[40] He later wrote:

Junior officers were being killed off, a dozen a minute. Parting from my wife then ... it was like a death.[41]

Tolkien served as a signals officer at the Somme, participating in the Battle of Thiepval Ridge and the subsequent assault on the Schwaben Redoubt. On 27 October 1916 he came down with trench fever, a disease carried by the lice which were common in the dugouts. According to the memoirs of the Reverend Mervyn S. Evers, Anglican chaplain to the Lancashire Fusiliers:

On one occasion I spent the night with the Brigade Machine Gun Officer and the Signals Officer in one of the captured German dugouts ... We dossed down for the night in the hopes of getting some sleep, but it was not to be. We no sooner lay down than hordes of lice got up. So we went round to the Medical Officer, who was also in the dugout with his equipment, and he gave us some ointment which he assured us would keep the little brutes away. We anointed ourselves all over with the stuff and again lay down in great hopes, but it was not to be, because instead of discouraging them it seemed to act like a kind of hors d'oeuvre and the little beggars went at their feast with renewed vigour.[42]

Tolkien was invalided to England on 8 November 1916.[43] Many of his dearest school friends, including Gilson and Smith of the T.C.B.S., were killed in the war. In later years, Tolkien indignantly declared that those who searched his works for parallels to the Second World War were entirely mistaken:

One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; but as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years. By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead.[44]

A weak and emaciated Tolkien spent the remainder of the war alternating between hospitals and garrison duties, being deemed medically unfit for general service.[45][46]


During his recovery in a cottage in Great Haywood, Staffordshire, he began to work on what he called The Book of Lost Tales, beginning with The Fall of Gondolin. Throughout 1917 and 1918 his illness kept recurring, but he had recovered enough to do home service at various camps and was promoted to Lieutenant. It was at this time that Edith bore their first child, John Francis Reuel Tolkien.

When he was stationed at Kingston upon Hull, he and Edith went walking in the woods at nearby Roos, and Edith began to dance for him in a clearing among the flowering hemlock:

We walked in a wood where hemlock was growing, a sea of white flowers.[47]

This incident inspired the account of the meeting of Beren and Lúthien, and Tolkien often referred to Edith as "my Lúthien".[48]

Academic and writing career

Tolkien's first civilian job after World War I was at the Oxford English Dictionary, where he worked mainly on the history and etymology of words of Germanic origin beginning with the letter W.[49] In 1920 he took up a post as Reader in English Language at the University of Leeds, and in 1924 he was made a professor there.[citation needed] While at Leeds he produced A Middle English Vocabulary and, with E. V. Gordon, a definitive edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, both becoming academic standard works for many decades. He also translated Sir Gawain, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo. In 1925 he returned to Oxford as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon,[citation needed] with a fellowship at Pembroke College.

20 Northmoor Road, the former home of J. R. R. Tolkien in North Oxford

During his time at Pembroke, Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and the first two volumes of The Lord of the Rings, whilst living at 20 Northmoor Road in North Oxford (where a blue plaque was placed in 2002). He also published a philological essay in 1932 on the name "Nodens", following Sir Mortimer Wheeler's unearthing of a Roman Asclepieion at Lydney Park, Gloucestershire, in 1928.[50]

Of Tolkien's academic publications, the 1936 lecture "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" had a lasting influence on Beowulf research.[51] Lewis E. Nicholson said that the article Tolkien wrote about Beowulf is "widely recognized as a turning point in Beowulfian criticism", noting that Tolkien established the primacy of the poetic nature of the work as opposed to its purely linguistic elements.[52] At the time, the consensus of scholarship deprecated Beowulf for dealing with childish battles with monsters rather than realistic tribal warfare; Tolkien argued that the author of Beowulf was addressing human destiny in general, not as limited by particular tribal politics, and therefore the monsters were essential to the poem.[53] Where Beowulf does deal with specific tribal struggles, as at Finnsburg, Tolkien argued firmly against reading in fantastic elements.[54] In the essay, Tolkien also revealed how highly he regarded Beowulf: "Beowulf is among my most valued sources," and this influence can be seen in The Lord of the Rings.[55]

In the run-up to World War II, Tolkien was earmarked as a codebreaker.[56][57] In January 1939, he was asked whether he would be prepared to serve in the cryptographical department of the Foreign Office in the event of national emergency.[56][57] He replied in the affirmative and, beginning on 27 March, took an instructional course at the London HQ of the Government Code and Cypher School.[56][57] However, although he was "keen"[58] to become a codebreaker, he was informed in October that his services would not be required at that time.[56][57] Ultimately he never served as one.[56][57] In 2009, The Daily Telegraph claimed Tolkien turned down a £500-a-year offer to become a full-time recruit for unknown reasons.[58]

In 1945, Tolkien moved to Merton College, Oxford, becoming the Merton Professor of English Language and Literature,[citation needed] in which post he remained until his retirement in 1959. He served as an external examiner for University College, Dublin, for many years. In 1954 Tolkien received an honorary degree from the National University of Ireland (of which U.C.D. was a constituent college). Tolkien completed The Lord of the Rings in 1948, close to a decade after the first sketches.

Tolkien also helped to translate the Jerusalem Bible, which was published in 1966.[59]


The Tolkiens had four children: John Francis Reuel Tolkien (17 November 1917 – 22 January 2003), Michael Hilary Reuel Tolkien (22 October 1920 – 27 February 1984), Christopher John Reuel Tolkien (born 21 November 1924) and Priscilla Mary Anne Reuel Tolkien (born 18 June 1929). Tolkien was very devoted to his children and sent them illustrated letters from Father Christmas when they were young. Each year more characters were added, such as the Polar Bear (Father Christmas's helper), the Snow Man (his gardener), Ilbereth the elf (his secretary), and various other, minor characters. The major characters would relate tales of Father Christmas's battles against goblins who rode on bats and the various pranks committed by the Polar Bear.[60]


C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis, whom Tolkien first met at Oxford, was perhaps his closest friend and colleague, although their relationship cooled later in their lives. They had a shared affection for good talk, laughter, and beer, and in May 1927 Tolkien enrolled Lewis in the Kolbítar ("Coalbiters": "those who lounge so close to the fire in winter that they 'bite the coal'"),[61] a club which read Icelandic sagas in the original Old Norse, and, as Carpenter notes, "a long and complex friendship had begun." It was Tolkien (and Hugo Dyson) who helped Lewis return to Christianity, and Tolkien was accustomed to read aloud passages from his Silmarillion mythology, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings to Lewis's strong approval and encouragement at the Inklings—often meeting in Lewis's big Magdalen sitting-room—and in private.

It was the arrival of Charles Williams, who worked for Oxford University Press, that changed the relationship between Tolkien and Lewis. Lewis's enthusiasm shifted almost imperceptibly from Tolkien to Williams, especially during the writing of Lewis's third novel That Hideous Strength.

Tolkien had for a long time been extremely bothered by what he perceived as Lewis's Anti-Catholicism. In a letter to his son Christopher, he declared:

... hatred of our church is after all the real only final foundation of the C[hurch] of E[ngland]—so deep laid that it remains even when all the superstructure seems removed (C.S.L. for instance reveres the Blessed Sacrament, and admires nuns!). Yet if a Lutheran is put in jail he is up in arms; but if Catholic priests are slaughtered—he disbelieves it (and I daresay really thinks they asked for it).[62]

Lewis's growing reputation as a Christian apologist and his return to the Anglican fold also annoyed Tolkien, who had a deep resentment of the Church of England. By the mid-forties, Tolkien felt that Lewis was receiving a good deal "too much [publicity] for his or any of our tastes".[63]

Tolkien and Lewis might have grown closer during their days at Headington, but this was prevented by Lewis's marriage to Joy Davidman. Tolkien felt that Lewis expected his friends to visit and socialize with both him and his wife, even though, as a bachelor in the thirties when the Inklings had met, Lewis had often ignored the fact that his friends, including Tolkien, had wives to go home to. In his biography of Tolkien, Carpenter suggests that Tolkien may have felt betrayed by the marriage and resented a woman's intrusion into their close friendship, just as Edith Tolkien had felt jealous of Lewis's intrusion into her marriage.[64] It did not help matters that Lewis did not initially tell Tolkien about his marriage to Davidman or that, when Tolkien finally did find out, he also discovered that Lewis had married a divorcee, which was offensive to Tolkien's Catholic beliefs. Tolkien described the marriage as "very strange".[65]

The cessation of Tolkien's frequent meetings with Lewis in the 1950s marked the end of the "clubbable" chapter in Tolkien's life, which started with the T.C.B.S. at school and ended with the Inklings at Oxford.

His friendship with Lewis was nevertheless renewed to some degree in later years. As Tolkien was to comment in a letter to Priscilla after Lewis's death in November 1963:

So far I have felt the normal feelings of a man of my age—like an old tree that is losing all its leaves one by one: this feels like an axe-blow near the roots.[66][67]

W. H. Auden

W. H. Auden, who as an undergraduate attended Tolkien's lectures, was also an occasional correspondent and was on friendly terms with Tolkien from the mid-1950s until Tolkien's death, initially due to Auden's fascination with The Lord of the Rings: Auden was among the most prominent early critics to praise the work. Tolkien wrote in a 1971 letter:

I am [...] very deeply in Auden's debt in recent years. His support of me and interest in my work has been one of my chief encouragements. He gave me very good reviews, notices and letters from the beginning when it was by no means a popular thing to do. He was, in fact, sneered at for it.[68]

Retirement and old age

During his life in retirement, from 1959 up to his death in 1973, Tolkien received steadily increasing public attention and literary fame. The sales of his books were so profitable that he regretted he had not chosen early retirement.[22] While at first he wrote enthusiastic answers to readers' enquiries, he became more and more suspicious of emerging Tolkien fandom, especially among the hippie movement in the United States.[69] In a 1972 letter he deplores having become a cult-figure, but admits that:

... even the nose of a very modest idol [...] cannot remain entirely untickled by the sweet smell of incense![70]

Fan attention became so intense that Tolkien had to take his phone number out of the public directory[71] and eventually he and Edith moved to Bournemouth on the south coast.

Tolkien was appointed by Queen Elizabeth II a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the New Year's Honours List of 1 January 1972[72] and received the insignia of the Order at Buckingham Palace on 28 March 1972.[73]


The grave of J. R. R. and Edith Tolkien, Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford

Tolkien's wife, Edith, died on 29 November 1971, at the age of 82.[74] Tolkien had the name Lúthien engraved on the stone at Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford. When Tolkien died 21 months later on 2 September 1973, at the age of 81, he was buried in the same grave, with Beren added to his name. The engravings read:

Edith Mary Tolkien
John Ronald
Reuel Tolkien


Tolkien was a devout Roman Catholic, and in his religious and political views he was mostly conservative, in the sense of favouring established conventions and orthodoxies over innovation and modernization; in 1943 he wrote, "My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs)—or to 'unconstitutional' Monarchy."[75]

Tolkien had an intense dislike for the side effects of industrialization, which he considered to be devouring the English countryside. For most of his adult life, he was disdainful of cars, preferring to ride a bicycle.[76] This attitude can be seen in his work, most famously in the portrayal of the forced "industrialization" of the Shire in The Lord of the Rings.[77]

Many commentators[78] have remarked on a number of potential parallels between the Middle-earth saga and events in Tolkien's lifetime. The Lord of the Rings is often thought to represent England during and immediately after World War II. Tolkien ardently rejected this opinion in the foreword to the second edition of the novel, stating he preferred applicability to allegory.[78] This theme is taken up at greater length in his essay "On Fairy-Stories", where he argues that fairy-stories are so apt because they are consistent both within themselves and with some truths about reality. He concludes that Christianity itself follows this pattern of inner consistency and external truth. His belief in the fundamental truths of Christianity leads commentators to find Christian themes in The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien objected strongly to C. S. Lewis's use of religious references in his stories, which were often overtly allegorical.[79] However, Tolkien wrote that the Mount Doom scene exemplified lines from the Lord's Prayer.[80]

His love of myths and his devout faith came together in his assertion that he believed that mythology is the divine echo of "the Truth".[81] This view was expressed in his poem Mythopoeia,[82] and his idea that myths held "fundamental truths" became a central theme of the Inklings in general.


Tolkien's devout faith was a significant factor in the conversion of C. S. Lewis from atheism to Christianity, although Tolkien was dismayed that Lewis chose to join the Church of England.[83]

In the last years of his life, Tolkien became greatly disappointed by the reforms and changes implemented after the Second Vatican Council,[84] as his grandson Simon Tolkien recalls:

I vividly remember going to church with him in Bournemouth. He was a devout Roman Catholic and it was soon after the Church had changed the liturgy from Latin to English. My grandfather obviously didn't agree with this and made all the responses very loudly in Latin while the rest of the congregation answered in English. I found the whole experience quite excruciating, but my grandfather was oblivious. He simply had to do what he believed to be right.[85]

Politics and race


Tolkien voiced support for Francisco Franco's Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War upon learning that Republican death squads were destroying churches and killing large numbers of priests and nuns.[62] He also expressed admiration for the South African poet and fellow Catholic Roy Campbell after a 1944 meeting. Since Campbell had allegedly served with Franco's armies in Spain, Tolkien regarded him as a defender of the Catholic faith, while C. S. Lewis composed poetry condemning what he referred to as Campbell's "mixture of Catholicism and Fascism".[62][86]

In addition, Tolkien also detested Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union. Even during World War II, when Britain was allied with the USSR, Tolkien referred to Stalin as "that bloodthirsty old murderer".[87]

However, in 1961, Tolkien sharply criticized a Swedish commentator who suggested that The Lord of the Rings was an anti-communist parable and identified the Dark Lord with Stalin. Tolkien indignantly retorted that his legendarium was conceived long before the October Revolution. He added, "Such an allegory is entirely foreign to my thought."[88]

Debate over race

The question of racist or racialist elements in Tolkien's views and works has been the matter of some scholarly debate.[89] Christine Chism[90] distinguishes accusations as falling into three categories: intentional racism,[91] unconscious Eurocentric bias, and an evolution from latent racism in Tolkien's early work to a conscious rejection of racist tendencies in his late work.

Tolkien expressed disgust at what he acknowledged as racism and once wrote of racial segregation in South Africa,

The treatment of colour nearly always horrifies anyone going out from Britain.[92]

Opposition to Nazism

Tolkien openly opposed Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party prior to the Second World War. In 1938, the German publishing house Rütten & Loening Verlag was preparing to release The Hobbit in Nazi Germany, but to Tolkien's outrage he was asked beforehand whether he was of Aryan origin. In a letter to his British publisher Stanley Unwin, he condemned Nazi "race-doctrine" and anti-Semitism as "wholly pernicious and unscientific". He added that he was considering giving no response and "letting a German translation go hang".[93] He provided two letters to Rütten & Loening and instructed Unwin to send whichever he preferred. Only one of these letters, the less tactful of the two, is known to survive. In this letter, Tolkien began by denying any affiliation with the Indo-Aryans. He continued:

But if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people. My great-great-grandfather came to England in the eighteenth century from Germany: the main part of my descent is therefore purely English, and I am an English subject—which should be sufficient. I have been accustomed, nonetheless, to regard my German name with pride, and continued to do so throughout the period of the late regrettable war, in which I served in the English army. I cannot, however, forbear to comment that if impertinent and irrelevant inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not far distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride.[94]

In a 1941 letter to his son Michael, he wrote:

You have to understand the good in things, to detect the real evil. But no one ever calls on me to 'broadcast', or do a postscript! Yet I suppose I know better than most what is the truth about this 'Nordic' nonsense. Anyway, I have in this War a burning private grudge—which would probably make me a better soldier at 49 than I was at 22: against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler ... Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light. Nowhere, incidentally, was it nobler than in England, nor more early sanctified and Christianized.[95]

In 1968, he objected to a description of Middle-earth as "Nordic", a term he said he disliked because of its association with racialist theories.[96]

Total war

Tolkien was also horrified by the Allied use of tactics of total war against civilians from Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. In a 1945 letter to his son Christopher, he wrote:

We were supposed to have reached a stage of civilization in which it might still be necessary to execute a criminal, but not to gloat, or to hang his wife and child by him while the orc-crowd hooted. The destruction of Germany, be it 100 times merited, is one of the most appalling world-catastrophes. Well, well,—you and I can do nothing about it. And that [should] be a measure of the amount of guilt that can justly be assumed to attach to any member of a country who is not a member of its actual Government. Well the first War of the Machines seems to be drawing to its final inconclusive chapter—leaving, alas, everyone the poorer, many bereaved or maimed and millions dead, and only one thing triumphant: the Machines.[97]

He was also disgusted by the anti-German propaganda which was used to further the British war effort. In 1944, he wrote in a letter to his son Christopher:

... it is distressing to see the press grovelling in the gutter as low as Goebbels in his prime, shrieking that any German commander who holds out in a desperate situation (when, too, the military needs of his side clearly benefit) is a drunkard, and a besotted fanatic. ... There was a solemn article in the local paper seriously advocating systematic exterminating of the entire German nation as the only proper course after military victory: because, if you please, they are rattlesnakes, and don't know the difference between good and evil! (What of the writer?) The Germans have just as much right to declare the Poles and Jews exterminable vermin, subhuman, as we have to select the Germans: in other words, no right, whatever they have done.[98]

He was horrified by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, referring to the scientists of the Manhattan Project as "these lunatic physicists" and "Babel-builders".[99]


Beginning with The Book of Lost Tales, written while recuperating from illnesses contracted during The Battle of the Somme, Tolkien devised several themes that were reused in successive drafts of his legendarium. The two most prominent stories, the tale of Beren and Lúthien and that of Túrin, were carried forward into long narrative poems (published in The Lays of Beleriand).


British adventure stories

One of the greatest influences on Tolkien was the Arts and Crafts polymath William Morris. Tolkien wished to imitate Morris's prose and poetry romances,[100] from which, along with some general aspects of approach, he took hints for the names of features such as the Dead Marshes in The Lord of the Rings[101] and Mirkwood.[102]

Edward Wyke-Smith's The Marvellous Land of Snergs, with its "table-high" title characters, strongly influenced the incidents, themes, and depiction of Bilbo's race in The Hobbit.[103]

Tolkien also cited H. Rider Haggard's novel She in a telephone interview: "I suppose as a boy She interested me as much as anything—like the Greek shard of Amyntas [Amenartas], which was the kind of machine by which everything got moving."[104] A supposed facsimile of this potsherd appeared in Haggard's first edition, and the ancient inscription it bore, once translated, led the English characters to She's ancient kingdom. Critics have compared this device to the Testament of Isildur in The Lord of the Rings[105] and to Tolkien's efforts to produce as an illustration a realistic page from the Book of Mazarbul.[106] Critics starting with Edwin Muir[107] have found resemblances between Haggard's romances and Tolkien's.[108][109][110]

Tolkien wrote of being impressed as a boy by S. R. Crockett's historical novel The Black Douglas and of basing the Necromancer (Sauron) on its villain, Gilles de Retz.[111] Incidents in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are similar in narrative and style to the novel,[112] and its overall style and imagery have been suggested as an influence on Tolkien.[113]

European mythology

Tolkien was much inspired by early Germanic, especially Anglo-Saxon literature, poetry, and mythology, which were his chosen and much-loved areas of expertise. These sources of inspiration included Anglo-Saxon literature such as Beowulf, Norse sagas such as the Volsunga saga and the Hervarar saga,[114] the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda, the Nibelungenlied, and numerous other culturally related works.[115] Despite the similarities of his work to the Volsunga saga and the Nibelungenlied, which were the basis for Richard Wagner's opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen, Tolkien dismissed critics' direct comparisons to Wagner, telling his publisher, "Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases." However, some critics[116][117][118] believe that Tolkien was, in fact, indebted to Wagner for elements such as the "concept of the Ring as giving the owner mastery of the world ..."[119] Two of the characteristics possessed by the One Ring, its inherent malevolence and corrupting power upon minds and wills, were not present in the mythical sources but have a central role in Wagner's opera.

Tolkien did also acknowledge several non-Germanic influences or sources for some of his stories and ideas, including Homer, Sophocles, and the Finnish and Karelian national epic, the Kalevala.[120] Dimitra Fimi, Douglas A. Anderson, John Garth, and many other prominent Tolkien scholars believe that Tolkien also drew influence from a variety of Celtic (Scottish, Irish, and Welsh) history and legends.[121][122] However, after the Silmarillion manuscript was rejected, in part for its "eye-splitting" Celtic names, Tolkien denied their Celtic origin:

Needless to say they are not Celtic! Neither are the tales. I do know Celtic things (many in their original languages Irish and Welsh), and feel for them a certain distaste: largely for their fundamental unreason. They have bright colour, but are like a broken stained glass window reassembled without design. They are in fact 'mad' as your reader says—but I don't believe I am.[123][124]


Catholic theology and imagery played a part in fashioning Tolkien's creative imagination, suffused as it was by his deeply religious spirit.[115][125] Tolkien acknowledged this himself:

The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like 'religion', to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.[126]

Specifically, Paul H. Kocher argues that Tolkien describes evil in the orthodox Christian way as the absence of good. He cites many examples in The Lord of the Rings, such as Sauron's "Lidless Eye": "the black slit of its pupil opened on a pit, a window into nothing." Kocher sees Tolkien's source as Thomas Aquinas, "whom it is reasonable to suppose that Tolkien, as a medievalist and a Catholic, knows well".[127] Tom Shippey makes the same point, but, instead of referring to Aquinas, says Tolkien was very familiar with Alfred the Great's Anglo-Saxon translation of Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy, known as the Lays of Boethius. Shippey contends that this Christian view of evil is most clearly stated by Boethius: "evil is nothing." He says Tolkien used the corollary that evil cannot create as the basis of Frodo's remark, "the Shadow ... can only mock, it cannot make: not real new things of its own," and related remarks by Treebeard and Elrond.[128] He goes on to argue that in The Lord of the Rings evil does sometimes seem to be an independent force, more than merely the absence of good (though not independent to the point of the Manichaean heresy), and suggests that Alfred's additions to his translation of Boethius may have inspired that view.[129]


Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics

As well as his fiction, Tolkien was also a leading author of academic literary criticism. His seminal 1936 lecture, later published as an article, revolutionized the treatment of the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf by literary critics. The essay remains highly influential in the study of Old English literature to this day. Beowulf is one of the most significant influences upon Tolkien's later fiction, with major details of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings being adapted from the poem. The piece reveals many of the aspects of Beowulf which Tolkien found most inspiring, most prominently the role of monsters in literature, particularly that of the dragon which appears in the final third of the poem:

As for the poem, one dragon, however hot, does not make a summer, or a host; and a man might well exchange for one good dragon what he would not sell for a wilderness. And dragons, real dragons, essential both to the machinery and the ideas of a poem or tale, are actually rare.[130]

The Silmarillion

Tolkien wrote a brief "Sketch of the Mythology" which included the tales of Beren and Lúthien and of Túrin, and that sketch eventually evolved into the Quenta Silmarillion, an epic history that Tolkien started three times but never published. Tolkien hoped to publish it along with The Lord of the Rings, but publishers (both Allen & Unwin and Collins) got cold feet; moreover printing costs were very high in the post-war years, leading to The Lord of the Rings being published in three volumes.[131] The story of this continuous redrafting is told in the posthumous series The History of Middle-earth, edited by Tolkien's son, Christopher Tolkien. From around 1936, Tolkien began to extend this framework to include the tale of The Fall of Númenor, which was inspired by the legend of Atlantis. Published in 1977, the final work, entitled The Silmarillion, received the Locus Award for Best Fantasy novel in 1978.[132]

Children's books and other short works

In addition to his mythopoeic compositions, Tolkien enjoyed inventing fantasy stories to entertain his children.[133] He wrote annual Christmas letters from Father Christmas for them, building up a series of short stories (later compiled and published as The Father Christmas Letters). Other stories included Mr. Bliss and Roverandom (for children), and Leaf by Niggle (part of Tree and Leaf), The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, On Fairy-Stories, Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham. Roverandom and Smith of Wootton Major, like The Hobbit, borrowed ideas from his legendarium.

The Hobbit

Tolkien never expected his stories to become popular, but by sheer accident a book called The Hobbit, which he had written some years before for his own children, came in 1936 to the attention of Susan Dagnall, an employee of the London publishing firm George Allen & Unwin, who persuaded Tolkien to submit it for publication.[74] However, the book attracted adult readers as well as children, and it became popular enough for the publishers to ask Tolkien to produce a sequel.

The Lord of the Rings

Even though he felt uninspired, the request for a sequel prompted Tolkien to begin what would become his most famous work: the epic novel The Lord of the Rings (originally published in three volumes 1954–1955). Tolkien spent more than ten years writing the primary narrative and appendices for The Lord of the Rings, during which time he received the constant support of the Inklings, in particular his closest friend Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia. Both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are set against the background of The Silmarillion, but in a time long after it.

Tolkien at first intended The Lord of the Rings to be a children's tale in the style of The Hobbit, but it quickly grew darker and more serious in the writing.[134] Though a direct sequel to The Hobbit, it addressed an older audience, drawing on the immense back story of Beleriand that Tolkien had constructed in previous years, and which eventually saw posthumous publication in The Silmarillion and other volumes. Tolkien's influence weighs heavily on the fantasy genre that grew up after the success of The Lord of the Rings.

The Lord of the Rings became immensely popular in the 1960s and has remained so ever since, ranking as one of the most popular works of fiction of the 20th century, judged by both sales and reader surveys.[135] In the 2003 "Big Read" survey conducted by the BBC, The Lord of the Rings was found to be the "Nation's Best-loved Book". Australians voted The Lord of the Rings "My Favourite Book" in a 2004 survey conducted by the Australian ABC.[136] In a 1999 poll of customers, The Lord of the Rings was judged to be their favourite "book of the millennium".[137] In 2002 Tolkien was voted the 92nd "greatest Briton" in a poll conducted by the BBC, and in 2004 he was voted 35th in the SABC3's Great South Africans, the only person to appear in both lists. His popularity is not limited to the English-speaking world: in a 2004 poll inspired by the UK's "Big Read" survey, about 250,000 Germans found The Lord of the Rings to be their favourite work of literature.[138]

Posthumous publications

Tolkien's monogram, and Tolkien Estate trademark

The Silmarillion

Tolkien had appointed his son Christopher to be his literary executor, and he (with assistance from Guy Gavriel Kay, later a well-known fantasy author in his own right) organized some of his father's unpublished material into a single coherent volume, published as The Silmarillion in 1977—his father had previously attempted to get a collection of "Silmarillion" material published in 1937 before writing The Lord of the Rings.[139]

Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle-earth

In 1980 Christopher Tolkien published a collection of more fragmentary material, under the title Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth. In subsequent years (19831996) he published a large amount of the remaining unpublished materials, together with notes and extensive commentary, in a series of twelve volumes called The History of Middle-earth. They contain unfinished, abandoned, alternative, and outright contradictory accounts, since they were always a work in progress for Tolkien and he only rarely settled on a definitive version for any of the stories. There is not complete consistency between The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, the two most closely related works, because Tolkien never fully integrated all their traditions into each other. He commented in 1965, while editing The Hobbit for a third edition, that he would have preferred to completely rewrite the book because of the style of its prose.[140]

The Children of Húrin

More recently, in 2007, the collection was completed with the publication of The Children of Húrin by HarperCollins (in the UK and Canada) and Houghton Mifflin (in the US). The novel tells the story of Túrin Turambar and his sister Nienor, children of Húrin Thalion. The material was compiled by Christopher Tolkien from The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The History of Middle-earth, and unpublished manuscripts.

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún

In February 2009, Publishers Weekly announced that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt had acquired the American rights to Tolkien's unpublished work The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún.[141] The book was released worldwide on 5 May 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and HarperCollins.

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún retells the Norse legend of Sigurd and the fall of the Niflungs. It is a narrative poem and is composed in alliterative verse inspired by the Skaldic poetry of the Elder Edda. Christopher Tolkien has added copious notes and commentary upon his father's work.

According to Christopher Tolkien, it is no longer possible to trace the exact date of composition of The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún. Based on circumstantial evidence, he suggests that it dates from sometime during the 1930s.

In a 1967 letter to W. H. Auden, Tolkien wrote,

Thank you for your wonderful effort in translating and reorganising The Song of the Sibyl. In return again I hope to send you, if I can lay my hands on it (I hope it isn't lost), a thing I did many years ago when trying to learn the art of writing alliterative poetry: an attempt to unify the lays about the Völsungs from the Elder Edda, written in the old eight-line fornyrðislag stanza.[142]

Mr. Bliss

One of Tolkien's least-known short works, published in 1982, it tells the story of Mr. Bliss and his first ride in his new motor-car. Many adventures follow: encounters with bears, angry neighbours, irate shopkeepers, and assorted collisions. The story was inspired by Tolkien's own vehicular mishaps with his first car, purchased in 1932. The bears were based on toy bears owned by Tolkien's sons. Tolkien was both author and illustrator of the book. He submitted it to his publishers as a balm to readers who were hungry for more from him after the success of The Hobbit. The lavish ink and coloured-pencil illustrations would have made production costs prohibitively expensive. Tolkien agreed to redraw the pictures in a simpler style, but then found he didn't have time to do so. The book was published in 1982 as a facsimile of Tolkien's difficult-to-read illustrated manuscript, with a typeset transcription on each facing page.

Manuscript locations

The Department of Special Collections and University Archives at Marquette University's John P. Raynor, S.J., Library in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, preserves many of Tolkien's manuscripts;[143] other original material is in Oxford University's Bodleian Library. Marquette University has the manuscripts and proofs of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and other works, including Farmer Giles of Ham, while the Bodleian Library holds the papers containing Tolkien's Silmarillion mythology and his academic work.[144]

In 2009, a partial draft of Language and Human Nature, which Tolkien had begun co-writing with C.S. Lewis but had never completed, was discovered at the Bodleian Library.[145]

Languages and philology

Linguistic career

Both Tolkien's academic career and his literary production are inseparable from his love of language and philology. He specialized in English philology at university and in 1915 graduated with Old Norse as special subject. He worked for the Oxford English Dictionary from 1918 and is credited with having worked on a number of words starting with the letter W, including walrus, over which he struggled mightily.[146] In 1920, he became Reader in English Language at the University of Leeds, where he claimed credit for raising the number of students of linguistics from five to twenty. He gave courses in Old English heroic verse, history of English, various Old English and Middle English texts, Old and Middle English philology, introductory Germanic philology, Gothic, Old Icelandic, and Medieval Welsh. When in 1925, aged thirty-three, Tolkien applied for the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professorship of Anglo-Saxon at the Pembroke College, he boasted that his students of Germanic philology in Leeds had even formed a "Viking Club".[147] He also had a certain, if imperfect, knowledge of Finnish.[148]

Privately, Tolkien was attracted to "things of racial and linguistic significance", and in his 1955 lecture English and Welsh, which is crucial to his understanding of race and language, he entertained notions of "inherent linguistic predilections", which he termed the "native language" as opposed to the "cradle-tongue" which a person first learns to speak.[149] He considered the West Midlands dialect of Middle English to be his own "native language", and, as he wrote to W. H. Auden in 1955, "I am a West-midlander by blood (and took to early west-midland Middle English as a known tongue as soon as I set eyes on it)."[150]

Tolkien learned Latin, French, and German from his mother, and while at school he learned Middle English, Old English, Finnish, Gothic, Greek, Italian, Old Norse, Spanish, Welsh, and Medieval Welsh. He was also familiar with Danish, Dutch, Lombardic, Norwegian, Icelandic, Russian, Swedish, Middle Dutch, Middle High German, Middle Low German, Old High German, Old Slavonic, and Lithuanian,[151] revealing his deep linguistic knowledge, above all of the Germanic languages.

Language construction

See also: Languages of Middle-earth

Parallel to Tolkien's professional work as a philologist, and sometimes overshadowing this work, to the effect that his academic output remained rather thin, was his affection for the construction of artificial languages. The best developed of these are Quenya and Sindarin, the etymological connection between which formed the core of much of Tolkien's legendarium. Language and grammar for Tolkien was a matter of aesthetics and euphony, and Quenya in particular was designed from "phonaesthetic" considerations; it was intended as an "Elvenlatin", and was phonologically based on Latin, with ingredients from Finnish, Welsh, English, and Greek.[124] A notable addition came in late 1945 with Adûnaic or Númenórean, a language of a "faintly Semitic flavour", connected with Tolkien's Atlantis legend, which by The Notion Club Papers ties directly into his ideas about inability of language to be inherited, and via the "Second Age" and the story of Eärendil was grounded in the legendarium, thereby providing a link of Tolkien's twentieth-century "real primary world" with the legendary past of his Middle-earth.

Tolkien considered languages inseparable from the mythology associated with them, and he consequently took a dim view of auxiliary languages: in 1930 a congress of Esperantists were told as much by him, in his lecture A Secret Vice, "Your language construction will breed a mythology", but by 1956 he had concluded that "Volapük, Esperanto, Ido, Novial, &c, &c, are dead, far deader than ancient unused languages, because their authors never invented any Esperanto legends".[152]

The popularity of Tolkien's books has had a small but lasting effect on the use of language in fantasy literature in particular, and even on mainstream dictionaries, which today commonly accept Tolkien's idiosyncratic spellings dwarves and dwarvish (alongside dwarfs and dwarfish), which had been little used since the mid-1800s and earlier. (In fact, according to Tolkien, had the Old English plural survived, it would have been dwerrows.) He also coined the term eucatastrophe, though it remains mainly used in connection with his own work.


After Tolkien
Reception of
Adaptations of
Works inspired by


In a 1951 letter to Milton Waldman, Tolkien writes about his intentions to create a "body of more or less connected legend", of which

The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.[153]

The hands and minds of many artists have indeed been inspired by Tolkien's legends. Personally known to him were Pauline Baynes (Tolkien's favourite illustrator of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Farmer Giles of Ham) and Donald Swann (who set the music to The Road Goes Ever On). Queen Margrethe II of Denmark created illustrations to The Lord of the Rings in the early 1970s. She sent them to Tolkien, who was struck by the similarity they bore in style to his own drawings.[154]

However, Tolkien was not fond of all the artistic representation of his works that were produced in his lifetime, and was sometimes harshly disapproving. In 1946, he rejected suggestions for illustrations by Horus Engels for the German edition of The Hobbit as "too Disnified",

Bilbo with a dribbling nose, and Gandalf as a figure of vulgar fun rather than the Odinic wanderer that I think of.[155]

Tolkien was sceptical of the emerging Tolkien fandom in the United States, and in 1954 he returned proposals for the dust jackets of the American edition of The Lord of the Rings:

Thank you for sending me the projected 'blurbs', which I return. The Americans are not as a rule at all amenable to criticism or correction; but I think their effort is so poor that I feel constrained to make some effort to improve it.[124]

He had dismissed dramatic representations of fantasy in his essay "On Fairy-Stories", first presented in 1939:

In human art Fantasy is a thing best left to words, to true literature. [...] Drama is naturally hostile to Fantasy. Fantasy, even of the simplest kind, hardly ever succeeds in Drama, when that is presented as it should be, visibly and audibly acted.[156]

On receiving a screenplay for a proposed movie adaptation of The Lord of the Rings by Morton Grady Zimmerman, Tolkien wrote:

I would ask them to make an effort of imagination sufficient to understand the irritation (and on occasion the resentment) of an author, who finds, increasingly as he proceeds, his work treated as it would seem carelessly in general, in places recklessly, and with no evident signs of any appreciation of what it is all about.[157]

Tolkien went on to criticize the script scene by scene ("yet one more scene of screams and rather meaningless slashings"). He was not implacably opposed to the idea of a dramatic adaptation, however, and sold the film, stage and merchandise rights of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to United Artists in 1968. United Artists never made a film, although director John Boorman was planning a live-action film in the early 1970s. In 1976 the rights were sold to Tolkien Enterprises, a division of the Saul Zaentz Company, and the first movie adaptation of The Lord of the Rings appeared in 1978, an animated rotoscoping film directed by Ralph Bakshi with screenplay by the fantasy writer Peter S. Beagle. It covered only the first half of the story of The Lord of the Rings.[158] In 1977 an animated TV production of The Hobbit was made by Rankin-Bass, and in 1980 they produced an animated The Return of the King, which covered some of the portions of The Lord of the Rings that Bakshi was unable to complete.

From 2001 to 2003, New Line Cinema released The Lord of the Rings as a trilogy of live-action films that were filmed in New Zealand and directed by Peter Jackson. The series was successful, performing extremely well commercially and winning numerous Oscars.

There are currently plans for an upcoming two-film series based on The Hobbit (see The Hobbit films). The films are in development for release in December 2011 and December 2012. The films will be directed by Guillermo del Toro, with The Lord of the Rings film trilogy director Peter Jackson serving as executive producer and co-writer. New Line Cinema and MGM will co-finance the film, and the MGM will distribute the films outside North America.


Posthumously named after Tolkien are the Tolkien Road in Eastbourne, East Sussex, and the asteroid 2675 Tolkien discovered in 1982. Tolkien Way in Stoke-on-Trent is named after Tolkien's eldest son, Fr. John Francis Tolkien, who was the priest in charge at the nearby Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Angels and St. Peter in Chains.[159] There is also a professorship in Tolkien's name at Oxford, the J.R.R. Tolkien Professor of English Literature and Language.[160]

In the Dutch town of Geldrop, near Eindhoven, the streets of an entire new neighbourhood are named after Tolkien himself ("Laan van Tolkien") and some of the best-known characters from his books.

In the Hall Green and Moseley areas of Birmingham there are a number of parks and walkways dedicated to J. R. R. Tolkien—most notably, the Millstream Way and Moseley Bog. Collectively the parks are known as the Shire Country Parks. Every year at Sarehole Mill the Tolkien Weekend is held in memory of the author; the fiftieth anniversary of the release of The Lord of the Rings was commemorated in 2005.

In "Silicon Valley" towns, California, USA there are two housing developments with streets from Tolkien names. In Saratoga (Brandywine) and in San Jose (Bilbo, Shadowfax, Brandywine, etc.).

Commemorative plaques

Sarehole Mill's blue plaque
The Plough and Harrow's blue plaque

There are five blue plaques that commemorate places associated with Tolkien: one in Oxford, and four in Birmingham. One of the Birmingham plaques commemorates the inspiration provided by Sarehole Mill, near which he lived between the ages of four and eight, while two others mark childhood homes up to the time he left to attend Oxford University. The third one marks a hotel he stayed at while on leave from World War I. The Oxford plaque commemorates the residence where Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and most of The Lord of the Rings.

Address Commemoration Date unveiled Issued by
Sarehole Mill
Hall Green, Birmingham
"Inspired" 1896–1900
(i. e. lived nearby)
15 August 2002 Birmingham Civic Society and
The Tolkien Society[161]
1 Duchess Place
Ladywood, Birmingham
Lived near here 1902–1910 Unknown Birmingham Civic Society[162]
4 Highfield Road
Edgbaston, Birmingham
Lived here 1910–1911 Unknown Birmingham Civic Society and
The Tolkien Society[163]
Plough and Harrow
Hagley Road, Birmingham
Stayed here June 1916 June 1997 The Tolkien Society[164]
20 Northmoor Road
North Oxford
Lived here 1930–1947 3 December 2002 Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board[165]

Another two plaques marking buildings associated with Tolkien are found in Oxford and Harrogate. The Harrogate plaque commemorates a residence where Tolkien convalesced from trench fever in 1917,[166] while the Oxford plaque marks his home from 1953–1968 at 76 Sandfield Road, Headington.[167]



General references


  1. ^ See J. R. R. Tolkien's own phonetic transcription published on the illustration in The Return of the Shadow: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part One. [Edited by] Christopher Tolkien. London: Unwin Hyman, [25 August] 1988. (The History of Middle-earth; 6) ISBN 0-04-440162-0. The position of the stress is not entirely fixed: stress on the second syllable (tolkien rather than tolkien) has been used by some members of the Tolkien family.
  2. ^ Wells, John. 1990. Longman pronunciation dictionary. Harlow: Longman, ISBN 0582053838. This pronunciation no doubt arose by analogy with such words as toll and polka, or because many General American speakers lack vowels of the [ɒ] and [ɔː] types; thus this becomes the closest possible approximation to the Received Pronunciation in their phonologies.
  3. ^ Biography, pp. 111, 200, 266.
  4. ^ "Middle-earth" is derived from an Anglicized form of Old Norse Miðgarðr, the land inhabited by humans in Norse mythology.
  5. ^ Letters, nos. 131, 153, 154, 163.
  6. ^ de Camp, L. Sprague (1976). Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers: The Makers of Heroic Fantasy. Arkham House. ISBN 0-87054-076-9.  The author emphasizes the impact not only of Tolkien but also of William Morris, George MacDonald, Robert E. Howard, and E. R. Eddison.
  7. ^ Mitchell, Christopher. "J. R. R. Tolkien: Father of Modern Fantasy Literature". Veritas Forum. Retrieved 2009-03-02. 
  8. ^ Clute, John, and Grant, John, eds. (1999). The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-19869-8. 
  9. ^ (5 January 2008). The 50 greatest British writers since 1945. The Times. Retrieved on 2008-04-17.
  10. ^ Letters, no. 165.
  11. ^ Undergraduate John Jethro Rashbold, and "old Professor Rashbold at Pembroke"; Tolkien, J. R. R. (1992), Christopher Tolkien, ed., Sauron Defeated, Boston, New York, & London: Houghton Mifflin, page 151, ISBN 0-395-60649-7 ; Letters, no. 165.
  12. ^ Georg Gerullis: Die altpreußischen Ortsnamen, o.V., Berlin/Leipzig 1922, S. 184.
  13. ^ Max Mechow: Deutsche Familiennamen prussischer Herkunft, Tolkemita, Dieburg 1994, S. 99.
  14. ^ Old Lamb House, Bull Street, Archives and Heritage Service, Birmingham City Council. Updated 12 January 2009. Retrieved on 27 April 2009.
  15. ^ Biography, p. 14.
  16. ^ Biography, p. 13. Both the spider incident and the visit to a kraal are covered here.
  17. ^ Biography, p. 24.
  18. ^ Biography, Ch I, "Bloemfontein". At 9 Ashfield Road, King's Heath.
  19. ^ Biography, p. 27.
  20. ^ Biography, p. 113.
  21. ^ Biography, p. 29.
  22. ^ a b Doughan, David (2002). "JRR Tolkien Biography". Life of Tolkien. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  23. ^ Biography, p. 22.
  24. ^ Biography, p. 30.
  25. ^ a b Letters, no. 306.
  26. ^ Biography, p. 31.
  27. ^ Biography, p. 39.
  28. ^ J.R.R. Tolkien, Birmingham Heritage Forum. Retrieved on 27 April 2009.
  29. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien, Archives and Heritage Service, Birmingham City Council. Updated 7 January 2009. Retrieved on 28 April 2009.
  30. ^ Bracken, Pamela (2006-03-04). "Echoes of Fellowship: The PRB and the Inklings". Conference paper, C. S. Lewis & the Inklings. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  31. ^ Biography, pp. 53–54.
  32. ^ dab, Roots of Romance (zoomed in on 1911 trail), hosted on Google Maps. Retrieved 28 April 2009.
  33. ^ Biography, p. 40.
  34. ^ Doughan, David (2002). "War, Lost Tales And Academia". J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biographical Sketch. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  35. ^ Biography, p. 43.
  36. ^ Biography, pp. 67–69.
  37. ^ Biography, p. 73.
  38. ^ Biography, p. 86.
  39. ^ Biography, p. 85.
  40. ^ Garth, John. Tolkien and the Great War, Boston, Houghton Mifflin 2003, pp. 89, 138, 147.
  41. ^ Quoted in John Garth, Tolkien and the Great War, p. 138.
  42. ^ Quoted in John Garth, Tolkien and the Great War, p. 200.
  43. ^ Biography, p. 93.
  44. ^ The Lord of the Rings. Preface to the Second Edition.
  45. ^ Garth, John. Tolkien and the Great War, Boston, Houghton Mifflin 2003, pp. 207 et seq.
  46. ^ Tolkien's Webley .455 service revolver was put on display in 2006 as part of a Battle of the Somme exhibition in the Imperial War Museum, London. (See "Personal Stories: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien". Battle of the Somme. Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 2009-04-28. ) Several of his service records, mostly dealing with his health problems, can be seen at the National Archives. ("Officer's service record: J R R Tolkien". First World War. National Archives. Retrieved 2009-04-28. )
  47. ^ Following rural English usage, Tolkien used the name "hemlock" for various plants with white flowers in umbels, resembling hemlock (Conium maculatum); the flowers among which Edith danced were more probably cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) or wild carrot (Daucus carota). See John Garth, Tolkien and the Great War (Harper Collins/Houghton Mifflin 2003), and Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall, & Edmund Weiner, The Ring of Words (OUP 2006).
  48. ^ Cater, Bill (12 April 2001). "We talked of love, death, and fairy tales". UK Telegraph. Retrieved 2006-03-13. 
  49. ^ Gilliver, Peter (2006). The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the OED. OUP. 
  50. ^ See The Name Nodens (1932) in the bibliographical listing. For the etymology, see Nodens#Etymology.
  51. ^ Biography, p. 143.
  52. ^ Ramey, Bill (30 March 1998). "The Unity of Beowulf: Tolkien and the Critics". Wisdom's Children. Retrieved 2006-03-13. 
  53. ^ Tolkien: Finn and Hengest. Chiefly, p.4 in the Introduction by Alan Bliss.
  54. ^ Tolkien: Finn and Hengest, the discussion of Eotena, passim.
  55. ^ Kennedy, Michael (2001). "Tolkien and Beowulf – Warriors of Middle-earth". Amon Hen. Retrieved 2006-05-18. 
  56. ^ a b c d e Letters, no. 35 (see also editorial note).
  57. ^ a b c d e Hammond, Wayne; Scull, Christina (2006). The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide. 2. HarperCollins. pp. 224, 226, 232. ISBN 978-0618391134. 
  58. ^ a b "JRR Tolkien trained as British spy". Daily Telegraph. 16 September 2009. Retrieved 17 September 2009. 
  59. ^ Rogerson, John. The Oxford Illustrated History of the Bible, 2001.
  60. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien, The Father Christmas Letters (1976)
  61. ^ Biography, pp. 119–20.
  62. ^ a b c Letters, no. 83.
  63. ^ Biography, p. 151.
  64. ^ Biography, p. 237.
  65. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey. The Inklings, Unwin Paperbacks, 1981, p. 242.
  66. ^ Biography, p. 241.
  67. ^ The relationship between Tolkien, Lewis, and Williams, fictionalized, is at the centre of James A. Owens' Here, There be Dragons (2007).
  68. ^ Letters, no. 327.
  69. ^ Meras, Phyllis (15 January 1967). ""Go, Go, Gandalf"". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  70. ^ Letters, no. 336.
  71. ^ Letters, no. 332.
  72. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 45554, p. 9, 1 January 1972. Retrieved on 2008-07-31.
  73. ^ Letters, no. 334 (editorial note).
  74. ^ a b "J. R. R. Tolkien Dead at 81; Wrote 'The Lord of the Rings'". New York Times. 3 September 1973. Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  75. ^ Letters, no. 52, to Christopher Tolkien, 29 November 1943
  76. ^ Letters, nos. 64, 131, etc.
  77. ^ (DVD) J. R. R. Tolkien – Creator Of Middle Earth. New Line Cinema. 2002. 
  78. ^ a b Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), Foreword, ISBN 0-395-08254-4 
  79. ^ Longenecker, Dwight. Why Tolkien said No to Narnia, Spero News, 12 November 2008. Accessed 4 April 2009.
  80. ^ Pearce, Joseph (2003). Why Tolkien Says The Lord of the Rings Is Catholic, National Catholic Register, January 12–19, 2003. Accessed 1 December 2008.
  81. ^ Wood, Ralph C. Biography of J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973). Addison, Texas; Leadership University. Updated 13 July 2002. Retrieved 28 April 2009.
  82. ^ Tolkien, Mythopoeia (the poem), circa 1931.
  83. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey (1978). The Inklings. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 0007748698.  Lewis was brought up in the Church of Ireland.
  84. ^ Craven, R. Kenton (2001). "Catholic Poem in Time of War: The Lord of the Rings". Catholic Education Resource Center. Retrieved 28 April 2009.  Reprinted from True West. "Tolkien himself – as did Evelyn Waugh – abhorred the changes in the Mass and the prevailing Catholic mind."
  85. ^ Tolkien, Simon (23 February 2003). "My Grandfather". The Mail on Sunday. Retrieved 27 April 2009. 
  86. ^ C. S. Lewis: "To the Author of Flowering Rifle", The Cherwell, 6 May 1939
  87. ^ Letters, no. 53.
  88. ^ Letters, no. 230.
  89. ^ Jensen, Steuard. Was Tolkien a racist? Were his works?, Tolkien Meta-FAQ, III. A. 7. Retrieved on 27 April 2009.
  90. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia (2006), s.v. "Racism, Charge of", p. 557.
  91. ^ John Yatt, The Guardian (2 December 2002), writes: "White men are good, 'dark' men are bad, orcs are worst of all." (Other critics such as Tom Shippey and Michael D.C. Drout disagree with such clear-cut generalizations of Tolkien's "white" and "dark" men into good and bad.) Tolkien's works have also been embraced by self-admitted racists such as the British National Party.
  92. ^ Letters, no. 61, to Christopher Tolkien, 18 April 1944.
  93. ^ Letters, no. 29, to Stanley Unwin, 25 July 1938.
  94. ^ Letters, no. 30.
  95. ^ Letters, no. 45.
  96. ^ Letters, no. 294.
  97. ^ Letters, no. 96.
  98. ^ Letters, no. 81.
  99. ^ Letters, no. 102.
  100. ^ Letters, no. 1.
  101. ^ Letters, no. 226.
  102. ^ Anderson, Douglas A. The Annotated Hobbit, Boston, Houghton Mifflin 1988, p. 183, note 10.
  103. ^ Anderson, Douglas A. The Annotated Hobbit, Boston, Houghton Mifflin 1988, pp. 6–7.
  104. ^ Resnick, Henry (1967). "An Interview with Tolkien". Niekas: 37–47. 
  105. ^ Nelson, Dale J. (2006). "Haggard's She: Burke's Sublime in a popular romance". Mythlore (Winter–Spring). Retrieved 2007-12-02. 
  106. ^ Flieger, Verlyn (2005). Interrupted Music: The Making Of Tolkien's Mythology. Kent State University Press. p. 150. ISBN 0873388140. Retrieved 2007-12-02. 
  107. ^ Muir, Edwin (1988). The Truth of Imagination: Some Uncollected Reviews and Essays. Aberdeen University Press. p. 121. ISBN 008036392X. 
  108. ^ Lobdell, Jared C. (2004). The World of the Rings: Language, Religion, and Adventure in Tolkien. Open Court. pp. 5–6. ISBN 9780812695694. 
  109. ^ Rogers, William N., II; Underwood, Michael R. (2000). "Gagool and Gollum: Exemplars of Degeneration in King Solomon's Mines and The Hobbit". in George Clark and Daniel Timmons (eds.). J.R.R. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-Earth. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. pp. 121–132. ISBN 0313308454. 
  110. ^ Stoddard, William H. (July 2003). "Galadriel and Ayesha: Tolkienian Inspiration?". Franson Publications. Retrieved 2007-12-02. 
  111. ^ Letters, p. 391, footnote, quoted in Jared C. Lobdell, The World of the Rings: Language, Religion, and Adventure in Tolkien, p. 6.
  112. ^ Anderson, Douglas A. The Annotated Hobbit, Boston, Houghton Mifflin 1988, p. 150.
  113. ^ Lobdell, Jared C. The World of the Rings: Language, Religion, and Adventure in Tolkien, pp. 6–7.
  114. ^ As described by Christopher Tolkien in Hervarar Saga ok Heidreks Konung (Oxford University, Trinity College). B. Litt. thesis. 1953/4. [Year uncertain], The Battle of the Goths and the Huns, in: Saga-Book (University College, London, for the Viking Society for Northern Research) 14, part 3 (1955–6) [1]
  115. ^ a b Day, David (1 February 2002). Tolkien's Ring. New York: Barnes and Noble. ISBN 1-58663-527-1. 
  116. ^ The Two Rings
  117. ^ Spengler, The 'Ring' and the remnants of the West, Asia Times, 11 January 2003. Retrieved on 27 April 2009.
  118. ^ Spengler, Tolkien's Christianity and the pagan tragedy, Asia Times, 11 January 2003. Retrieved on 27 April 2009.
  119. ^ Tolkien's Ring and Der Ring des Nibelungen, Chapter 5 in Harvey, David (1995). One Ring to Rule them All. Updated 20 October 1995. Retrieved on 27 April 2009.
  120. ^ Handwerk, Brian (1 March 2004). "Lord of the Rings Inspired by an Ancient Epic". National Geographic News. Retrieved 2006-03-13. 
  121. ^ Fimi, Dimitra (2006). "'Mad' Elves and 'elusive beauty': some Celtic strands of Tolkien's mythology". Folklore (West Virginia University Press) 117 (2): 156–170. doi:10.1353/tks.2007.0015. ISSN 1547-3155. Retrieved 2009-04-27. 
  122. ^ Fimi, Dimitra (2007). "Tolkien's "'Celtic' type of legends": Merging Traditions". Tolkien Studies (West Virginia University Press) 4: 51–71. doi:10.1353/tks.2007.0015. ISSN 1547-3155. Retrieved 2009-04-25. 
  123. ^ Letters, no. 19.
  124. ^ a b c Letters, no. 144.
  125. ^ Bofetti, Jason (November 2001). "Tolkien's Catholic Imagination". Crisis Magazine. Retrieved 2006-08-30. 
  126. ^ Letters, no. 142.
  127. ^ Kocher, Paul H. (1972). Master of Middle-earth: The Fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 76–77. ISBN 0395140978. 
  128. ^ Shippey, Tom (1983). The Road to Middle-earth. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 140–141. ISBN 0-395-33973-1. 
  129. ^ Road, pp. 141–145.
  130. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics, Oxford, 1963, pp. 10–11.
  131. ^ Hammond, Wayne G. J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography, London: January 1993, Saint Paul's Biographies, ISBN 1-873040-11-3, American edition ISBN 0-938768-42-5
  132. ^ "1978 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  133. ^ Phillip, Norman (2005). "The Prevalence of Hobbits". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  134. ^ Times Editorial Staff (5 June 1955). "Oxford Calling". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  135. ^ Seiler, Andy (16 December 2003). "'Rings' comes full circle". USA Today. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  136. ^ Cooper, Callista (5 December 2005). "Epic trilogy tops favorite film poll". ABC News Online. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  137. ^ O'Hehir, Andrew (4 June 2001). "The book of the century". Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  138. ^ Diver, Krysia (5 October 2004). "A lord for Germany". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  139. ^ see The History Of Middle-Earth.
  140. ^ Martinez, Michael (27 July 2002). "Middle-earth Revised, Again". Michael Martinez Tolkien Essays. Retrieved 28 April 2009. 
  141. ^ "Publishing News Briefs: Week of 2/23.2009". Publishers Weekly. 23 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-12. 
  142. ^ Letters, no. 295.
  143. ^ "J.R.R. Tolkien Collection". Department of Special Collections and University Archives, Marquette University. 4 March 2003. Retrieved 28 April 2009. 
  144. ^ McDowell, Edwin (4 September 1983). "Middle-earth Revisited". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  145. ^ Beebe discovers unpublished C.S. Lewis manuscript,, University News Service, 8 July 2009
  146. ^ Winchester, Simon (2003). The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-860702-4; and Gilliver, Peter, Jeremy Marshall and Edmund Weiner (2006). The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-861069-6.
  147. ^ Letters, no. 7, to the Electors of the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professorship of Anglo-Saxon, University of Oxford, 27 June 1925.
  148. ^ Grotta, Daniel (2001). J.R.R. Tolkien: Architect of Middle Earth. Philadelphia, Running Press. ISBN 0762409568.
  149. ^ English and Welsh, O'Donnell Lecture, 1955, cited in Scull, Christina, and Hammond, Wayne G. The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Reader's Guide, London, HarperCollins 2006, p. 249.
  150. ^ Letters, no. 163.
  151. ^ Jeffrey, Henning (January–February, 1996). "On Tolkien: Growing up with language". Model Languages 1 (8). 
  152. ^ Letters, no. 180.
  153. ^ Letters, no. 131.
  154. ^ Thygesen, Peter (Autumn, 1999). "Queen Margrethe II: Denmark's monarch for a modern age". Scandinavian Review. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  155. ^ Letters, no. 107.
  156. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien, "On Fairy-Stories", in Tolkien, J. R. R. (1964), J. R. R. Tolkien: Tree and Leaf, London: HarperCollins (published 2001), ISBN 0-00-710504-5 .
  157. ^ Letters, no. 207.
  158. ^ Canby, Vincent (15 November 1978). "Film: 'The Lord of the Rings' From Ralph Bakshi". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  159. ^ "People of Stoke-on-Trent". Retrieved 2005-03-13. 
  160. ^ Schedule of Statutory Professorships in Statutes and Regulations of the University of Oxford online at (accessed 27 November 2007)
  161. ^ Birmingham Civic Society. "Sarehole Mill". Blue Plaques Photograph Gallery. Retrieved 2007-03-21. 
  162. ^ Birmingham Civic Society. "Duchess Place". Blue Plaques Photograph Gallery. Retrieved 2007-03-21. 
  163. ^ Birmingham Civic Society. "4 Highfield Road". Blue Plaques Photograph Gallery. Retrieved 2007-03-21. 
  164. ^ Birmingham Civic Society. "Plough and Harrow". Blue Plaques Photograph Gallery. Retrieved 2007-03-21. 
  165. ^ Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board. "J. R. R. Tolkien Philologist and Author". Plaques Awarded. Retrieved 2007-03-21. 
  166. ^ Garth, John (2006). "World War I". in Michael D. C. Drout. J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. Oxon: Routledge. pp. 713. ISBN 0415969425. Retrieved 2009-03-10. 
  167. ^ Stephanie Jenkins. "J. R. R. Tolkien Inscriptions". Retrieved 2009-02-18. 

Further reading

A small selection of books about Tolkien and his works:

  • Douglas A. Anderson (Editor), Michael D. C. Drout (Editor), Verlyn Flieger (Editor) (2004). Anderson, Douglas A., Michael D. C. Drout and Verlyn Flieger. ed. Tolkien Studies, An Annual Scholarly Review Vol. I. West Virginia University Press. ISBN 0-937058-87-4. 
  • Carpenter, Humphrey (1979). The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and Their Friends. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-27628-4. 
  • Edited by Jane Chance (2003). Chance, Jane. ed. Tolkien the Medievalist. London, New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-28944-0. 
  • Edited by Jane Chance (2004). Chance, Jane. ed. Tolkien and the Invention of Myth, a Reader. Louisville: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2301-1. 
  • Curry, Patrick (2004). Defending Middle-earth: Tolkien, Myth and Modernity. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-618-47885-X. 
  • Michael D. C. Drout, editor (2006). Drout, Michael D. C.. ed. J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. New York City: Routledge. ISBN 0-415969425.. 
  • Duriez, Colin (2001). The Inklings Handbook: The Lives, Thought and Writings of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and Their Friends. London: Azure. ISBN 1-902694-13-9. 
  • Duriez, Colin (2003). Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship. Mahwah, NJ: HiddenSpring. ISBN 1-58768-026-2. 
  • Edited by Verlyn Flieger and Carl F. Hostetter (2000). Flieger, Verlyn and Carl F. Hostetter. ed. Tolkien's Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-30530-7. DDC 823.912. LC PR6039.. 
  • Fonstad, Karen Wynn (1991). The Atlas of Middle-earth. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-618-126996. 
  • Foster, Robert (2001). The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth. Del Rey. ISBN 0-345-44976-2. 
  • Garth, John (2003). Tolkien and the Great War. Harper-Collins. ISBN 0-00-711953-4. 
  • Gilliver, Peter; Marshall, Jeremy; Weiner, Edmund (2006). The Ring of Words. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198610696. 
  • Glyer, Diana Pavlac (2007). The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press. ISBN 978-0-87338-890-0. 
  • Grotta-Kurska, Daniel (1976). J.R.R. Tolkien: Architect of Middle Earth (A Biography). Philadelphia: Running Press. ISBN 0-7624-0956-8. 
  • Haber, Karen (2001). Meditations on Middle-earth: New Writing on the Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-27536-6. 
  • Harrington, Patrick, ed (2003). Tolkien and Politics. London, England: Third Way Publications Ltd. ISBN 0-9544788-2-7. 
  • Stuart Lee, Elizabeth Solopova, (2005). Lee, S. D., and E. Solopova. ed. The Keys of Middle-earth: Discovering Medieval Literature through the Fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-4671-X. 
  • Pearce, Joseph (1998). Tolkien: Man and Myth. London: HarperCollinsPublishers. ISBN 0-00-274018-4. 
  • Perry, Michael (2006). Untangling Tolkien: A Chronology and Commentary for The Lord of the Rings. Seattle: Inkling Books. ISBN 1-58742-019-8. 
  • Shippey, Tom (2000). J. R. R. Tolkien – Author of the Century. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0-618-12764-X. 
  • Tom, Shippey (2003). The Road to Middle-earth. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0-618-25760-8. 
  • Ready, William (1968). Understanding Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings. New York: Paperback Library. 
  • Strachey, Barbara (1981). Journeys of Frodo: an Atlas of The Lord of the Rings. London, Boston: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 0-04-912016-6. 
  • Tolkien, John & Priscilla (1992). The Tolkien Family Album. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-261-10239-7. 
  • Tyler, J.E.A. (1976). The Tolkien Companion. New York: Gramercy. ISBN 0-517-14648-7. 
  • White, Michael (2003). Tolkien: A Biography. New American Library. ISBN 0-451-21242-8. 

External links

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From Wikiquote

Many are the strange chances of the world... and help oft shall come from the hands of the weak when the Wise falter. ~ The Silmarillion

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-01-031973-09-02) was an English author and philologist.

See also: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion



  • Wars are not favourable to delicate pleasures.
  • My advice to all who have the time or inclination to concern themselves with the international language movement would be: 'Back Esperanto loyally.'
    • "A Philologist on Esperanto" in The British Esperantist (May 1932).
    • Years later, in a 1956 letter (quoted more extensively below) he stated that Esperanto and other constructed languages were "dead, far deader than ancient unused languages, because their authors never invented any Esperanto legends."
  • Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might be found more suitable mates. But the real soul-mate is the one you are actually married to.
    • Letter to Michael Tolkien (March 1941)
  • There was a solemn article in the local paper seriously advocating systematic exterminating of the entire German nation as the only proper course after military victory: because, if you please, they are rattlesnakes, and don't know the difference between good and evil! (What of the writer?) The Germans have just as much right to declare the Poles and Jews exterminable vermin, subhuman, as we have to select the Germans: in other words, no right, whatever they have done.
    • Letter (September 1944)
  • That story was the only thing I have ever done which cost me absolutely no pains at all. Usually I compose only with great difficulty and endless rewriting. I woke up one day (more than 2 years ago) with that odd thing virtually complete in my head. It took only a few hours to get down, and then copy out.
  • I should say that, in addition to my tree-love (it was originally called The Tree), it arose from my own pre-occupation with the Lord of the Rings, the knowledge that it would be finished in great detail or not at all, and the fear (near certainty) that it would be 'not at all'. The war had arisen to darken all horizons. But no such analyses are a complete explanation even of a short story...
    • About "Leaf by Niggle", in a letter to Caroline Everett (24 June 1957)
  • I have the hatred of apartheid in my bones...
    • Valedictory address to the University of Oxford (1959)
  • 'I wish life was not so short,' he thought. 'Languages take such a time, and so do all the things one wants to know about.'

On Fairy-Stories (1939)

Originally given as an Andrew Lang Lecture at the University of St. Andrews on 8 March 1939, and published in Essays presented to Charles Williams in 1947. It was republished with minor alterations in Tree and Leaf in 1964, in The Tolkien Reader in 1966, and in The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays in 1983. Tolkien On Fairy-stories, an expanded edition containing the essay, unpublished manuscripts, background material, contemporary reports, and notes and commentary, edited by Verlyn Flieger and Douglas A. Anderson, was published by HarperCollins in 2008.
  • And lastly there is the oldest and deepest desire, the Great Escape: the Escape from Death. Fairy-stories provide many examples and modes of this ... Fairy-stories are made by men not by fairies. The Human-stories of the elves are doubtless full of the Escape from Deathlessness.
  • I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which 'Escape' is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?
  • Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.
  • The mind that thought of light, heavy, grey, yellow, still, swift also conceived of magic that would make heavy things light and able to fly, turn grey lead into yellow gold, and the still rock into swift water. If it could do the one, it could do the other; it inevitably did both. When we have taken green from the grass, blue from heaven, and red from blood, we have already an enchanter's power.
  • The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. ... But this story has entered History and the primary world; ... It has pre-eminently the "inner consistency of reality." There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. ...this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men--and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused.
  • The Evangelium has not abrogated legends; it has hallowed them, especially the "happy ending." The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope, and die; but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed. So great is the bounty with which he has been treated that he may now, perhaps, fairly dare to guess that in Fantasy he may actually assist in the effoliation and multiple enrichment of creation. All tales may come true; and yet, at the last, redeemed, they may be as like and unlike the forms that we give them as Man, finally redeemed, will be like and unlike the fallen that we know.

Leaf by Niggle (1945)

First published in Dublin Review (January 1945); written in 1938 or 1939
  • There was once a little man called Niggle, who had a long journey to make. He did not want to go, indeed the whole idea was distasteful to him; but he could not get out of it. He knew he would have to start some time, but he did not hurry with his preparations.
  • There was one picture in particular which bothered him. It had begun with a leaf caught in the wind, and it became a tree; and the tree grew, sending out innumerable branches, and thrusting out the most fantastic roots.
  • "It's a gift!" he said. He was referring to his art, and also to the result; but he was using the word quite literally.
  • "I think we shall have to give the region a name. What do you propose?"
    "The Porter settled that some time ago," said the Second Voice. "Train for Niggle's Parish in the bay."

English and Welsh (1955)

A lecture given at the University of Oxford, (21 October 1955) published in The Monsters And The Critics And Other Essays (1983), edited by Christopher Tolkien
  • To many, perhaps to most people outside the small company of the great scholars, past and present, 'Celtic' of any sort is, nonetheless, a magic bag, into which anything may be put, and out of which almost anything may come. ... Anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight, which is not so much a twilight of the gods as of the reason.
  • No language is justly studied merely as an aid to other purposes. It will in fact better serve other purposes, philological or historical, when it is studied for love, for itself.
  • For myself I would say that more than the interest and uses of the study of Welsh as an adminicle of English philology, more than the practical linguist's desire to acquire a knowledge of Welsh for the enlargement of his experience, more even than the interest and worth of the literature, older and newer, that is preserved in it, these two things seem important: Welsh is of this soil, this island, the senior language of the men of Britain; and Welsh is beautiful.
  • The basic pleasure in the phonetic elements of a language and in the style of their patterns, and then in a higher dimension, pleasure in the association of these word-forms with meanings, is of fundamental importance. This pleasure is quite distinct from the practical knowledge of a language, and not the same as an analytic understanding of its structure. It is simpler, deeper-rooted, and yet more immediate than the enjoyment of literature.
  • Most English-speaking people ... will admit that cellar door is 'beautiful,' especially if dissociated from its sense (and from its spelling). More beautiful that, say, sky, and far more beautiful than beautiful...Well then, in Welsh, for me cellar doors are extraordinarily frequent, and moving to the higher dimension, the words in which there is pleasure in the contemplation of the association of form and sense are abundant.

The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (1981)

  • The news today about 'Atomic bombs' is so horrifying one is stunned. The utter folly of these lunatic physicists to consent to do such work for war-purposes: calmly plotting the destruction of the world! Such explosives in men's hands, while their moral and intellectual status is declining, is about as useful as giving out firearms to all inmates of a gaol and then saying that you hope 'this will ensure peace'. But one good thing may arise out of it, I suppose, if the write-ups are not overheated: Japan ought to cave in. Well we're in God's hands. But He does not look kindly on Babel-builders.
  • As for what you say or hint of 'local' conditions: I knew of them. I don't think they have much changed (even for the worse). I used to hear them discussed by my mother; and have ever since taken a special interest in that part of the world. The treatment of colour nearly always horrifies anyone going out from Britain, & not only in South Africa. Unfort[unately], not many retain that generous sentiment for long.
    • To Christopher Tolkien in South Africa
  • I must say the enclosed letter from Rütten and Loening is a bit stiff. Do I suffer this impertinence because of the possession of a German name, or do their lunatic laws require a certificate of 'arisch' origin from all persons of all countries? ... I do not regard the (probable) absence of all Jewish blood as necessarily honourable; and I have many Jewish friends, and should regret giving any colour to the notion that I subscribed to the wholly pernicious and unscientific race-doctrine.
    • No. 30: Letter to Stanley Unwin (1938-07-25); Tolkien's German publishers had written to ask him whether he was of "Aryan" origin.
  • I regret that I am not clear as to what you intend by 'arisch'. I am not of Aryan extraction: that is Indo-Iranian; as far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects. ... But if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people. ... I have been accustomed, nonetheless, to regard my German name with pride, and continued to do so throughout the period of the late regrettable war, in which I served in the English army. I cannot, however, forbear to comment that if impertinent and irrelevant inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not far distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride.
    • One of two draft letters (1938-07-25) written for Stanley Unwin to select as a response to his German publishers inquiry about his ancestry. The other letter refused to answer altogether on his ancestry; since the quoted letter persists, it seems that the other letter was sent.
  • I have in this War a burning private grudge — which would probably make me a better soldier at 49 than I was at 22: against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler (for the odd thing about demonic inspiration and impetus is that it in no way enhances the purely intellectual stature: it chiefly affects the mere will). Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light.
  • Nothing has astonished me more (and I think my publishers) than the welcome given to The Lord of the Rings. But it is, of course, a constant source of consolation and pleasure to me. And, I may say, a piece of singular good fortune, much envied by some of my contemporaries. Wonderful people still buy the book, and to a man 'retired' that is both grateful and comforting.
  • It was just as the 1914 War burst on me that I made the discovery that 'legends' depend on the language to which they belong; but a living language depends equally on the 'legends' which it conveys by tradition. ... Volapuk, Esperanto, Ido, Novial, &c &c are dead, far deader than ancient unused languages, because their authors never invented any Esperanto legends...
    • No. 180: To a Mr. Thompson (1956)
  • It was like discovering a complete wine-filled cellar filled with bottles of an amazing wine of a kind and flavor never tasted before. It quite intoxicated me….
  • I am doubtful myself about the undertaking. Part of the attraction of the L.R. is, I think, due to the glimpses of a large history in the background: an attraction like that of viewing far off an unvisited island, or seeing the towers of a distant city gleaming in a sunlit mist. To go there is to destroy the magic, unless new unattainable vistas are again revealed. Also many of the older legends are purely 'mythological', and nearly all are grim and tragic: a long account of the disasters that destroyed the beauty of the Ancient World, from the darkening of Valinor to the Downfall of Númenor and the flight of Elendil.
    • No. 247

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Simple English

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien
Occupation Author, Academic, Philologist
Nationality British
Genres Fantasy, Translation, Criticism

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (January 3, 1892September 2, 1973) was a philologist, university professor, and writer. Tolkien is best known for his most famous works, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.



He was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa but his parents were both from England. He fought in World War I, and after the war he found a job helping to produce the Oxford English Dictionary. Tolkien was very interested in languages, and he had studied at Oxford University. Soon he became a professor of English Language at the University of Leeds. He was then a professor at the University of Oxford until 1959, when he retired. He also was good friends with many other writers and scholars, most notably C. S. Lewis, who wrote the Narnia books, The Screwtape Letters, and many essays on Christian theology. Tolkien himself was a devout Catholic.

Tolkien married Edith Mary Bratt on March 22, 1916 in England at the age of 24.[1] They had four children, three sons and a girl: John, Michael, Christopher, and Priscilla.


He created and worked on the fictional fantasy world of Middle-earth for most of his life, and his most famous books are set in that world. Because of his Middle-earth books he is often considered the "father of high fantasy" which made the fantasy genre very popular.

Tolkien wrote other books, for example Farmer Giles Of Ham, and also illustrated (drew the pictures and maps for) The Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings was published in three parts and has been made into several motion pictures. The Lord of the Rings took 12 years to write.


Fiction and poetry

Academic and other works

  • Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics (1937)
  • On Fairy-Stories (1947)
  • Ancrene Riwle or Ancrene Wisse


  1. Biography, page 86.

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